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Republican National Convention

Anti-war, progressive groups blast plans to curtail protests

by Mick Kelly |
August 10, 2007
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Minneapolis, MN - Activists planning protests at the Republican National Convention packed a city hall conference room here, Aug. 8, to blast a proposed ordinance that would place big restrictions on the right to demonstrate. Deb Konechne of the Welfare Rights Committee told members of the city government’s ‘Free Speech Working Group’ that the proposal was trash.

A statement from the Twin Cities based Anti-War Committee noted, “The proposed ordinance claims to have two purposes: to protect the rights of freedom of expression; and to protect public safety and access to public spaces. It fails on both fronts and reads more like a PATRIOT Act for Minneapolis.”

The Anti-War Committee letter also stated, “The ordinance does nothing to expand our rights as they exist and has no provisions to protect these rights, nor does it curb infringements on these rights by local law enforcement, city park officials or restrictive sound ordinances. On the contrary, the ordinance separates out political speech and applies special regulations to that, while other speech remains governed by existing laws. Most dangerously, the ordinance criminalizes non-permitted political speech.”

At the Aug. 8 meeting a modified ordinance was introduced. That was also rejected by Twin Cities progressives. “We see this as a direct attack on our day-to-day organizing. We don’t want any new rules that limit our right to protest. We will not apply for permits to protest in Minneapolis,” said Jess Sundin of the Anti-War Committee.

The groups condemned the ‘Free Speech’ Working Group for considering the ordinance and for failing to alert community organizers about the attack. They called on the committee to disband, if it cannot take positive action to improve conditions for local protesters.

Organizers believe that in light of strong community opposition, the ‘Free Speech’ Working Group will not support the proposed ordinance, but it may move forward through another City Council committee. Activists vow to keep a close eye on any city council committees that consider regulations that limit the right to demonstrate.